Everyone 16 and up eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 19
New Jersey is opening up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone age 16 and older beginning April 19, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.
Murphy says the expansion comes two weeks ahead of plan, and added that it’s the “right time to put our program into higher gear.”
Pediatricians, like Dr. Amna Husain, say it's a good idea to vaccinate older teens - even though they are still considered children.
“Sixteen is still a child. Sixteen is still an adolescent, still falls under a pediatric jurisdiction,” says Husain. “Even though a bit more mature and able to wear a mask and able to distance, we do see that this group for COVID is a higher risk for transmitting and for falling ill.”
The expanded eligibility comes just as national experts are warning that more younger children are being diagnosed with COVID variants – the UK strain in particular. Husain says that she hasn’t seen that in her practice. But she says that it is not surprising, given the nature of those variants.
“With variants, one thing we know is not only are they more contagious amongst children but all age groups,” she says.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reporting outbreaks in young people due to youth sports and extracurricular activities – and because children under 16 are not approved for vaccination - Husain says it becomes more important to make sure others around them are vaccinated.
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“You cannot treat a child like a vaccinated adult. Some people think because everyone in the house except kids are vaccinated, it’s OK. But you still need to practice precautions and the one thing we can do to protect our children is to make sure the adults around them are vaccinated,” Husain says.
Pfizer reported last week positive results on safety and efficacy of their vaccine on children age 12-15. That group may start getting the vaccine by the start of the new school year.
Data is still months away on children younger than 12.
The governor’s announcement came the same day that those 55 and older as well as people in other jobs categories became eligible for the vaccine. Murphy has promised to get 70% of the state’s adult population, or 4.7 million people, vaccinated by the end of June.
There are now nearly 1.8 million New Jersey residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.